Crytek v Cloud Imperium: Star citizen developers sued

Crytek, the maker of the CryEngine game engine sued Cloud Imperium, the developers behind Star Citizen, in December 2017 for breach of contract.

The complaint named Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) and Roberts Space Industries (RSI) as the defendants. Both companies were founded by Chris Roberts, the creator of the Wing Commander franchise.

The Star Citizen project is actually an effort to create two unique AAA-quality games: an online multiplayer game known as Persistent Universe (PU) and a single player game called Squadron 42. Crytek said in its lawsuit that in continuing to use CryEngine 3 for both products, CIG and RSI were in breach of contract.

In December 2016, CIG and RSI said that they were moving off of CryEngine 3 in favour of Amazon’s Lumberyard product. But the complaint filed by Crytek said that such had not been the case. A careful look at CIG and RSI’s own marketing materials showed lines of code on the screen that seemed to indicate that the games are running, at least partially, on CryEngine 3.

What made matters even more complicated was the fact that Amazon’s Lumberyard was a fork of the CryEngine itself, purchased by Amazon.

The lawsuit went on to say that CIG and RSI had improperly removed the CryEngine logo when the game booted up and that the teams failed to properly disclose the modifications made to CryEngine 3 as part of their licensing agreement.

But the lawsuit didn’t stop there. As stated earlier, in 2016, CIG and RSI had begun selling 2 games – Squadron 42 and Star Citizen Persistent Universe. Crytek said that since both games were using the same code, that constituted using the engine twice, resulting in further breach of contract.

Crytek asked for direct damages, indirect damages and a permanent injunction to prevent CIG and RSI “from continuing to possess or use the Copyrighted Work.”

CIG responded to the lawsuit in January 2018. In a document serving as support for a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, CIG said that the suit “should never have been filed” and that it “sacrifices legal sufficiency for loud publicity”. The majority of Crytek’s allegations cited the Game License Agreement (GLA), but it didn’t look like the agreement supported all of the claims – something CIG’s lawyers had been quick to catch.

CIG produced the GLA and it didn’t look like it quite backed up Crytek. For instance, Crytek claimed that CIG used CryEngine 3 in 2 games but the GLA treats Squadron 42 as a part of Star Citizen in Exhibit 2 (page 24). At a glance, there wasn’t anything to suggest that CIG had to use CryEngine either. It gave the studio the rights to use it, but did not stop them from switching to another engine.

As for the allegations that CIG hadn’t promoted Crytek or CryEngine enough in the game, CIG argued that – as Crytek itself pointed out in the suit – the game was not even using there software; so there was no need to display the trademarks for it.

The suit also noted that the CIG co-founder and general counsel, Ortwin Freyermuth previously represented Crytek, which should have made him recuse himself instead of negotiating the GLA on behalf of CIG. However, it didn’t look like Crytek asked him to recuse himself and in fact signed a waiver, allowing him to negotiate on behalf of CIG.

Details of Crytek’s response are yet to be made public.

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